The Phrygian cap is still being used as a revolutionary symbol, more than 200 years after the French Revolution. Here we have the late French writer and ambassador, Stéphane Hessel wearing a Phrygian cap while speaking at a pro-Palestinian rally in 2011.
In 2011, Hessel penned an article in the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, in which he compared the Nazi occupation of France during World War II with the occupation of Palestinian Territories by Israeli army in such terms : “the German occupation was, when compared for example with the present occupation of Palestine by the Israelis, a relatively harmless occupation, apart from exceptions like the arrests, detentions and executions, also of the theft of art treasures.” Responding to the controversy raised by these remarks, he clarified that he was drawing “no parallel between the horrors of Nazism and the illegal attitude of a state” (Israel); that he naturally supported the existence of Israel but that he wished to be able to criticize the actions of the Israeli authorities without automatically being accused of “antisemitism”. He regretted that his words in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung had been perhaps “written too quickly, and read too quickly”.
He told the Ha’aretz newspaper: “Israel must be led differently to ensure its security”. Having seen “firsthand the Jews’ suffering” as a Holocaust survivor, he clarified that he wished to see Israelis’ safety guaranteed by a responsible government. As a supporter of a two state solution, he also told the newspaper: “[A]s long as Palestinian violence exists, but not a Palestinian state, Israel is in danger, because it cannot obtain assistance from the international community against an entity that is not subordinate to international law”.
Hessel’s best-selling pamphlet, Indignez-Vous!, ignited a new debate within France about Israeli policies toward Palestine. The pamphlet has been translated into English and has been reprinted by The Nation magazine. The New York Times reported today on Hessel’s pamphlet and the controversy surrounding it.